If you’re reading this, there’s probably a piece of art out there that you’d like to get tattooed on your body. But, you realized there might be a little problem there too. Can you come to a tattoo shop with a request for a tattoo artist to do the exact same thing on you, with little changes or none at all? Where does the issue of copyright law come in, and is such a request simply disrespectful and rude?
Well, you wouldn’t be the first or the last to wonder about copying tattoos. This subject is very important in the tattoo community. And, in the following paragraphs, we will let you know all about it. This way, you can avoid copyright issues and violations of the same law. So, without further ado, let’s get started!
Tattoos: Inspiration and Copyright Infringement
Inspiration – explained
It’s best to start this kind of topic by explaining what it means to take inspiration from another piece of art or a tattoo.
We all get our inspiration for life from somewhere or someone else, usually from the work of others. But, in the meantime, we also want to move away from inspiration and create our own thing that is unique to us and no one else.
The inspiration in such a case is what prompted you to do something similar, but you also managed to introduce unique elements and modifications that make the newly created artwork unique and your own. But, even in the case of inspiration, it is important to clearly express the person or work that can inspire or influence you.
Without any changes or adjustments introduced while creating artwork under the influence of another artwork, you are simply in the presence of plagiarism.
This applies to any type or form of creative work; whether it’s a song, a text for a book, a painting or a drawing for a tattoo. Being inspired and directly copying another person’s work is not a fine line as some believe. These two concepts are completely different and generally accentuated by the need to hide the source of inspiration.
Copying (Copyright Infringement) – Explanation
Now that we know what it means to be inspired, let’s take a close look at copy. Well, it’s quite simple. If you have seen someone else’s work and are directly copying or using it, trying to pass it on as your own work, then we are talking about copying and copyright infringement.
Now, let’s not confuse copying other work with the fun of learning and developing yourself as an artist. But, the source of the original work should always be vocalized and credited. And, you may not use this work as your own or profit from it, for example.
The issue of copyright infringement is easy to understand. If you use another person’s work and pass it on as your own, for example profiting from it, and without citing the source, you are breaking copyright law.
When it comes to tattoos, there are two types of copy;
- Copy of an already existing work of art that is not related to the tattoo
- Copy of an existing tattoo design that belongs to another tattoo artist
So if you decide to get a tattoo of say a Claude Monet painting, and you ask your tattoo artists to do the same design, we are talking about copying. However, it is not copyright infringement if your tattoo is not used as promotional material, for example. And, of course, this tattoo is an intellectual property of the artist himself, not your tattoo artist. But, since the original artist died a long time ago and cannot provide permission for the use of his work, the question of copying is easily dealt with.
On the other hand, if you show up at a tattoo shop with the intention of getting the same tattoo as someone else, you are entering the red zone of copying. The copy in such a case would have no creative input, the source artist would not have been contacted for approval, and the design or layout of the tattoo is exactly the same.
Effectively, copyright infringement would become even more serious if the copied tattoo design was used in a commercial sense, where the grounds for a lawsuit would definitely be in favor of the original artist.
So, is it rude to ask a tattoo artist to copy a tattoo?
Of course it is! Such a request is considered rude and disrespectful on many levels.
First, you are directly or indirectly trying to get your tattoo artist into serious legal trouble. If your wish tattoo design turns out to be a copy and the original tattoo artist did not approve its reuse, your tattoo artist could face a copyright lawsuit, whether he would lose 100%.
Also, you ask a tattoo artist to devalue the work of another tattoo artist or his colleague, which is all the more rude.
But, what can you do to avoid copying?
Well, as we mentioned before, taking inspiration from other people’s work is not prohibited or legally an issue, as long as there is creative output and creative input from your side.
So, if you have found an amazing tattoo design, here is what you can do;
- Contact the artist; find their email address or contact them through social media.
- Ask permission from the original artist; see if you can use some aspect of their work for your own idea.
- Always make sure you have contacted the right person; otherwise, you could be in legal trouble.
- Make sure the tattoo artist is the original creator of the design. Sometimes tattoo artists don’t realize they have copied another artist’s design or work.
- Be sure to share your plans and ideas with the tattoo artist; let them know what you’re going to do and see if they’re okay with your creative input.
- Always be prepared for a negative response from the original artist; people take great pride in their work, and we have to respect their decision if they don’t want their work to appear elsewhere.
Another thing you can do is ask the original tattoo artist to come up with a similar tattoo design that you selected as inspiration. You can even recommend that the two of you collaborate on the new design, so ownership of the design will belong to both of you. This could be a clever way to get your dream tattoo without violating someone’s legal right to their own job. Also, this way you’ll just avoid being disrespectful to the tattoo artist who was supposed to “inspire” or “copy” a certain tattoo design.
How can you prevent watermark copying?
Well, if you intentionally use another artist’s design and don’t disclose its origin and source, you’re not really preventing design theft.
However, if you want to do it right, there are some things you can do to avoid copyright issues and tattoo theft.
As a customer, you must;
- Always try to get original tattoo designs from your artist.
- If you found a design you like, tell your tattoo artist that the design belongs to another tattoo artist.
- Always contact the original tattoo artist and ask permission to use the original design or alter it in some way.
- Try to buy already existing designs and illustrations to avoid copyright infringement.
As a tattoo artist you should;
- Always educate yourself about other tattoo artists and their work, as well as the world of tattoos and copyright.
- Always add a watermark to your original designs, especially if you post them online.
- Be careful about the work you post online; This way, you can post multiple creations that speak of your talent and creativity, but don’t reveal too much of your work and avoid theft.
- If someone contacts you about using your work, see how they will modify the design and be open-minded if the person is just getting inspired.
Copying other people’s tattoo designs and asking a tattoo artist to use them is a really big deal and incredibly disrespectful to the entire tattoo community. Of course, it’s hard to know where each tattoo design comes from, mainly because people tend to withhold the source of the design. But it is up to tattoo artists to always check the designs that their clients bring in and see if they are the intellectual property of another tattoo artist.
Indeed, as a customer, you also need to be careful about the designs you want to use and do your research on where they come from. It is essential to disclose that a particular design originally belongs to another artist, or to disclose that you do not know the source or artist behind the design. Either way, do everything you can to avoid asking your tattoo artist to copy a tattoo.
Also Read: How Much Do Tattoo Artists Earn?
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